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Borough: experts en route to examine K-beach flooding

Posted: September 26, 2013 - 7:42pm  |  Updated: September 27, 2013 - 10:13am
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John Wichman leans on his shovel while he talks with Paul Ostrander, Kenai Peninsula Borough Chief of Staff. Wichman lives on Eastway Road off Kalifornsky Beach Road, and his property is flooding. The Kenai Peninsula Borough says the source of the flooding is the elevated water table, but it does not know why the table has risen. (Photo by Dan Schwartz/Peninsula Clarion)
John Wichman leans on his shovel while he talks with Paul Ostrander, Kenai Peninsula Borough Chief of Staff. Wichman lives on Eastway Road off Kalifornsky Beach Road, and his property is flooding. The Kenai Peninsula Borough says the source of the flooding is the elevated water table, but it does not know why the table has risen. (Photo by Dan Schwartz/Peninsula Clarion)

Driveways are eroding. Yards are filling. Roads are deepening. Septic systems, wells and basements are likely under water.

Since the 5,000-acre swamp near the north end of Kalifornsky Beach Road began flooding two and a half weeks ago, many area roads have been lined with silver culverts and fresh-dredged ditches. Hardest hit are the lands between Bridge Access and Unocal Airport roads, said Paul Ostrander, Kenai Peninsula Borough Chief of Staff.

The source of the problem is the elevated water table, Ostrander said.

The big question is, he said: “Is this a natural occurrence, or is there something that has exacerbated the problem?”

Ostrander, Borough Mayor Mike Navarre and members from the borough Office of Emergency Management met Thursday morning to try to understand why the Kalifornsky Beach properties and roads are flooding and what can be done. They have not yet found a permanent solution, Ostrander said.

The borough will meet with hydrologists and various agencies Tuesday to address the flooding, Ostrander said. Office of Emergency Management Director Scott Walden said the borough sent maps and water flow charts to Alaska Division of Homeland Security & Emergency Management, River Watch, U.S. Geological Survey, and the Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities on Thursday. The borough hopes those agency hydrologists can explain what is abnormal and what can be solved, Walden said.

The borough doesn’t know definitively what has elevated the water, but Ostrander suspects it was the rainfall last fall and the deep snowpack two winters ago, he said.

The borough does not yet know if underwater septic systems have contaminated the water, Walden said. Private tests may yield mixed results, as best results are gleaned once the water has receded, he said.

Information for flooded residents can be found at the borough’s Office of Emergency Management website.

Meanwhile, a flood advisory has been issued for the Kenai River.

Borough Roads Director Pat Malone said Wednesday night’s rainfall pumped at least 2 million gallons of water into the swamp. And the swamp is already saturated, he said.

That water flows downhill until it hits a road, and then it washes down the roads and ditches and through culverts, until it hits another road or driveway, Malone said. He and his crews and a borough contractor have been digging the ditches and laying the culverts to keep the water flowing, but there are too many roads and too many driveways, he said.

“What I’m saying is throwing a few more ditches in the ground isn’t going to be adequate to drain it,” he said.

Others parties have been taking action, too.

Dave Yragui, who owns property directly west of the swamp, said his ranch fields are 4 to 6 inches underwater. For 13 years he has lived at his property off Eastway Road, and he has never seen flooding this extreme, he said.

Yragui began digging ditches and laying culverts three weeks ago. He has spent $20,000, and he can’t spend anymore, he said.

“It’s not stopping,” he said. “It’s getting worse.”

He said the borough has been “running around like a chicken with its head cut off,” so he sought solutions himself. Many others are doing the same, Malone said.

But the borough encourages residents to sit tight, Ostrander said. Unpermitted actions can actually increase flood flow and road erosion, Malone said. They can also inundate downstream neighbors, Ostrander said.

The borough hopes by next week it will have the answers residents need, Ostrander said.

Further up Eastway Road, John Wichman walked through puddles to the stream cutting across his driveway. He carried a shovel.

Wednesday morning, the water had collected in a deep ditch upstream of his driveway. Wednesday night, the stream began trickling to other side.

His neighbor is to blame, he said: That upstream resident had dug ditches to irrigate his property; now it’s flowing into Wichman’s.

Wichman skipped work Thursday morning to dig ditches. Already his kennels were under water. Without the ditches, he said his garage would likely be too.

To embed a culvert beneath his driveway would cost $350, he said. But even with the culvert, the water would still pool at his neighbor’s driveway 100 feet downstream, he said.

Wichman doesn’t know what’s going on, he said.

“My dad’s lived in the neighborhood since 1980, just around the bluffs, and he has never seen it flood like this,” he said.

Dan Schwartz can be reached at

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Watchman on the Wall
Watchman on the Wall 09/27/13 - 08:27 am
Very Interesting all these

Very Interesting all these natural disasters globally as well as here in Alaska and no one knows why these events are getting worse and more frequent as well. What a mess it sounds like. Neighbors fault and no other reason for this 5000 acre swamp to be filling up with water and flooding every where. Neighbors are also causing the Kenai to flood.

Norseman 09/27/13 - 09:15 am
it's called global

it's called global warming.....

Watchman on the Wall
Watchman on the Wall 09/27/13 - 11:10 am
In spite of the rapid back

In spite of the rapid back steps by scientist who are now rebuking that theory, as well as clear evidence that the earth is actually cooling and going to do so for a while, you call it Global warming. Ok then. Man this warming we are having now and last winter sure could be done without as far as I'm concerned, it's freezing. Yep! It looks like we might have another freezing cold warm winter from all the Signs we see and folktales say indicates it will be.
It may be my neighbors fault as he always has his heated garage open and works on gas guzzler cars & trucks which promote all this.
Quick call the borough experts and let them know so they can call off their investigation, we have the answer and it's not going to get better due to manmade global warming.
If this is true Norseman then what's your answer and what can we do to avert this local as well as global problem of floods, earthquakes, droughts, hurricanes, tornadoes and freezing weather which are getting worse as we type?

tejarboc 09/27/13 - 01:05 pm
Flooding concerns

You built in a 5000 acre swamp...and you wonder about water. Three years of heavy rainfall and 2 winters of above average snow and your wondering why the water table is high. You built in a swamp.

whenpigsfly 09/28/13 - 08:33 am

The problem is that David Yragui built in a swamp, developed and built a sub-division in a swamp and sold lots to unsuspecting people and now has decided to drain the the swamp into the adjoining neighborhood. I have been in the effected are for about 25 years and there has been only minor issues with the water table, but nothing like this. The cause is new roads and building sites in the swamp that have changed how it drains. Global warming is not the issue this time. It is an arrogant and ignorant land owner with too much heavy equipment.

Home me
Home me 10/01/13 - 04:46 pm
Swamp water

If you buy a swamp, you should build for a swamp? I am sure somehow the government will get involved and give a grant. So let's pay for stupid that build in a swamp.

potomac 10/03/13 - 07:48 am
global warming verse swamp housing....

the warming trend is here no matter who is to blame , it is just moving faster than ever before seen in history, mean while I can't think of a single place anywhere that isn't a swamp, maybe pretty grown in after all these long years of warming, but walk around anywhere that is fairly flat terrain and the only explanation for all the pot holes and uneven ground in and out of the grass and black spruce, is swamp country plain and simple. I can see areas even up Tustumena RD that have these same characteristics of over grown swamps. Fly over the country and you see them on the benches,everywhere, this is nothing new, history shows an advancement of trees into the alpine zones, even as far north as 80 plus miles above the arctic circle trees are advancing up slop same as on the bench. With this type of climate change comes heavier moist flows, wetter snow pack (think 800 inches above the Arm), all this water will rise up and refill the swamps of old plain and simple. The only solution is billions spend moving houses or elaborate pumping systems of gigantic proportions to pump the water into the already expanding river flood plain, so no one is out of the woods except high ground folks who could see slippage in the slopes due to over saturation. This is another Alaskan thing that has made so many self sufficient folks hang in there and work through the tough times without bitching. Help out where you can and quit the blame game , that is rediculous and get's us no where

Watchman on the Wall
Watchman on the Wall 10/03/13 - 08:45 am
In spite of the evidence of a

In spite of the evidence of a prolonged period of Global cooling starting with scientist now confessing their error, we still claim it's Global warming that's causing the bad weather.
Can I ask if it might possibly be the ability of mankind to change weather by the use of HAARP globally?
If I was a group or power system determined to control all peoples in every aspect of life and I could use lies against actuality, as well as my ability to control weather by electronic waves to destroy and create dependence and hope of salvation for all. I too would blame it all on mankind and demand submission to the powers that be who claim a desire to save us from ourselves if only we would obey and submit.
Rising Water Happens, but who can we blame for it is the real question.

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